Turkey's Kurdish rebels to declare ceasefire: report
AFP, Wednesday 30 Jan 2013
Turkey's PKK will declare an Ocalan-backed ceasefire as the government vowed last week to settle the nearly three-decade conflict

Turkey's Kurdish rebels will declare a ceasefire and withdraw to their bases in northern Iraq in the spring as part of a deal brokered between their jailed leader and the country's intelligence agency, media reported on Tuesday.

According to the agreed timetable, the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) will declare a ceasefire in February at the urging of their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, daily Hurriyet reported.

As a confidence-building measure, some 100 PKK members will lay down arms and withdraw to northern Iraq in the spring, once the snow melts off the mountains along the two countries' border, according to the daily.

But the complete disarmament will depend on the course of negotiations with Ankara, it said.

There is an estimated 4,000-4,500 Kurdish rebels and more than half of them are based in northern Iraq where the group enjoys safe haven.

There was no official confirmation of the Hurriyet report and a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Sirri Sakik, told AFP that he has not been informed of an agreement.

The PKK has in the past declared several ceasefires but they collapsed amid clashes between Turkey's security forces and rebels in the restive southeast.

The Turkish government has acknowledged that its secret services had resumed peace talks with Ocalan, aiming to disarm the rebels who use their bases in Iraq as a springboard to launch attacks on Turkey's security forces in the southeast.

A high-level delegation from Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) will travel in the coming days to northern Iraq where details of the possible ceasefire is due to be discussed, Hurriyet said.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was determined to settle the nearly three-decade Kurdish conflict and would guarantee safe passage for rebels wishing to leave the country.

"If you are sincere and honest, you lay down your arms," Erdogan said, referring to the PKK.

"If you don't want to live in this country, you are free to go to any country you like. We assure you that ... we'll do our best not to let what happened at our borders before happen again," he said.

In the past there have been clashes between Turkey's security forces and the PKK as they were leaving the country for northern Iraq.

Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran all have Kurdish minorities in regions straddling their common borders.

Turkish media has speculated that Turkey's nascent talks with the PKK have produced a roadmap, but this has not been confirmed by any of the parties.

The PKK, which took up arms for autonomy in the Kurdish majority southeast in 1984, is branded as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.